There have been new studies coming out that show how most people have only a few hours of peak productivity in them each day. For some it’s the morning hours, for others it could be the afternoon, and then there are the night owls.
Unfortunately, here in the United States our work hours are not always flexible, and I haven’t yet heard of a company which will pay a full-time wage for a 3-hour work day. But there are things any of us can try to work into our daily routines which could help us be more productive.
- Pick a time for returning phone messages—If you receive a message from a client and it’s a situation which can be handled with a quick call, do it. It is one less thing on your to do list and you will have that immediate sense of accomplishment. If you let too many small activities pile up, then your mind will get bogged down with an ever growing to do list and it will be difficult to concentrate.
- Get a head-start on tomorrow by preparing before you leave the office today –The simple task of writing a to-do list is one of the most efficient ways of keeping track of your daily work requirements. By writing out a list for tomorrow before you leave the office at night, you will have an immediate head-start on your next day and be ready for your new priorities.
- Don’t sit at your desk all day—It is important to get up, walk around the office and take a few minutes for a ‘mental break.’ These short breaks will reinvigorate you and help you be more productive in the long term.
- Organize your tasks—By arranging your workday so that you tackle your most important priorities together, you will save time, be more efficient and ultimately produce higher quality work. In addition, by starting your day with the most important task, you will increase your productivity and get your day off to a good start.
- Stand up for your phone calls—It is amazing that the simple act of standing during a phone call will help shorten the call, thus saving you time. If you are standing your body is working, your core is strengthening and it’s better for your back than sitting in a chair all day.
- Stick to a schedule –If a meeting is scheduled for an hour, do everything possible to keep it to an hour. Once meetings start running long, it directly impacts the rest of your schedule for the day, while also impacting your co-workers. A series of meetings that run long will have a snowball effect throughout the day. Also, if you are not required to be at a meeting and you have a more pressing deadline, do not feel guilty about missing the meeting.
- Learn to say no –While everyone wants to be a good team player at work, saying no is sometimes the right thing to do. If you are not the best person for an activity, or if you have other pending deadlines, it is OK to turn down a project. However, it is always beneficial to have an alternate solution or suggestion, so that your co-workers have a clear vision of what they will need to do to help move their projects forward.
- Don’t let email take over your day—We are all so accustomed to email that as soon as we see a new email in our inbox we instinctively click it on, respond and focus on the content of the email. These seemingly tiny activities during the day can quickly add up to large amounts of time that not only cause your day to slip away but also distract you from completing your current task. If you are focused on a project, tell yourself that you will not check your email for a set amount of time, so that you get through your activity.
- Do take a lunch break– Eating lunch at your desk can become a habit. I know there will be times when taking a regular lunch break isn’t possible, but even on those super hectic, take your lunch outside, or to a quiet area in your building and just get away for a few minutes. Those little breaks really do help, and if you can make yourself meet with a good friend for a real lunch, so much the better.
If you can, try to fit some kind of regular exercise into your day. Even if it’s just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking far from the front door and taking a brisk walk into work. The more we move, the better our bodies work and the keener our minds are.